Red Cross sending volunteers as Hurricane Idalia heads toward Florida

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Hurricane Idalia is just hours away from bearing down on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Locally, the Rochester chapter of the American Red Cross is sending help.

Five volunteers will be sent to Florida to help in hurricane-affected areas. The volunteers not already on their way have been told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. They’ll be in Florida for at least three weeks. 

As residents of Cedar Key Florida evacuate from their homes ahead of the storm, Red Cross volunteers from across the country are headed in. It’s too early to know how severe the storm will be. The Red Cross is monitoring Idalia’s development.

Typically, it tries to get volunteers on the ground before a storm makes landfall. Kenneth Lee, Executive Director of the Rochester Chapter tells me four volunteers will help provide food and emotional support to impacted Floridians. The fifth volunteer will help by going out to see how homes and businesses fared and assess any damage.

Lee talked about how important volunteers are in a time like this.

“They are critical. They are the lifeblood of what we do. We could not respond and be available for people in their time of need without the volunteers, and so there is always a need for people who are interested in doing this type of work. we encourage them to go to our web site and sign up,” said Lee.

One volunteer is Diane Sargent. She is a Disaster Assessment Supervisor. She spoke to us from Tallahassee, where she is supervising storm preparations.

“Shelters are being opened,” said Sargent. She continued, “Stocking them, supplying them, and also we are helping with the government evacuation centers. We are helping manning them. They are bussing people into the shelters, and evacuation sites as we speak.”

Sargent has been a volunteer for the Red Cross since the 9-11 attacks and volunteered for the Red Cross at over 80 natural, and manmade disasters. She says Hurricane Idalia is expected to bring a nine to 15-feet storm surge.

“After this thing goes through, we go and assess the damages so that we know where to send feeding, and supplies, and where shelters are to be open more. We help the clients. We assist them afterwards with recovering,” said Sargent.

A typical Red Cross deployment lasts three weeks. Even as a veteran of disaster relief efforts, it’s hard for her to leave family behind.

“This is something I have a passion for, and I have for a very long time, and I know I’m in a good place. When you see other people having to deal with all of this it’s tough. So what little bit I can do, I will do for them,” said Sargent.

Click here if you are interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer.